Andrea Korsunsky is the Director of Seniors At Home’s Center for Dementia Care. Here she shares the story of her day out with her client, Pat, and explains the impact that engaging clients in their favorite activities can have.
When I arrived at Pat’s home in the morning, her apartment was completely dark. Pat confessed to me that she hadn’t gotten out of bed much during the day for several weeks—she hadn’t had the motivation to get up. Pat, a client of Seniors At Home’s Center for Dementia Care, is an introverted person who is not very comfortable in social situations; specifically, she strongly dislikes participating in most activities designed for seniors. They make her feel old, and she hates that.
But today was different: Pat had our trip to the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s Arts Café marked on her calendar. Something about the description of this event, an interactive arts program designed for individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s and their care partners, ignited Pat’s interest and she couldn’t stop giggling about it. She dressed herself in her favorite outfit and as we left her home, she was practically skipping.
“I’m not even sure I’m going to like contemporary art, but I’m excited to see what it’s all about,” Pat told me as we drove. Finally, she said, there was something she felt motivated to participate in.
Through the Center for Dementia Care, we provide each of our clients with a personalized care plan that supports their quality of life. We focus on helping clients maintain their own identities in the face of memory loss by enabling them to participate in their own hobbies and pastimes. I was taking Pat to the Arts Café—which includes a guided tour and art studio time to engage participants with art and each other through stimulating discussions—specifically to suit her interests and needs.
Pat’s eyes lit up as soon as we walked into the Museum. Our tour guides, Cecile and Jen, immediately engaged her by asking questions and initiating conversation. As someone who works with many clients with Dementia, I was impressed with Jen and Cecile’s thorough planning and thoughtfulness—they spoke to all participants sincerely and provided them with useful facts and information. They smoothed over situations related to memory loss that many would stumble over awkwardly. Most importantly, Jen and Cecile were present, supportive, and engaging—they created a safe and comfortable space. This structured and meaningful activity is something that Pat yearns for.
At the end of the day, Pat was beaming. She told me that she loved the small group discussions and personalized tour of the art exhibits. But it wasn’t just about the opportunity to spend time out of her apartment that made the day special; it was the chance to feel engaged and youthful that had brought Pat out of her shell. She craves art, culture, and engagement with others—which are exactly what the Center for Dementia Care and the Arts Café provided to her today.